Everybody loves a good redemption tale.
From building an unheralded Jose Rizal University team to the finals against powerhouse San Beda, to leading the Malaysia Westports Dragons to a championship in the ASEAN Basketball League, and to finally earning a coaching stint with the Phoenix Fuel Masters in the PBA, current Blackwater Bossing alternate governor, Ariel Vanguardia still has a lot to prove that he is still worthy of becoming a head coach, both locally and internationally.
THE O.F.W. ROUTE
Since his PBA head-coaching stint didn’t pan out, coach Ariel’s eyes have always been set on how he could make a comeback to the oldest league in Asia. In a recent interview, he stated: “The only way that I can see myself coming back to the PBA is by having an opportunity to coach overseas . . . As a coach, gusto mong bumawi.”
His success internationally, particularly in the ABL, is what put him on the coaching radar of PBA teams. That is why he is hoping to have a successful international stint that will put him on that radar once more. He knows this is his career path as he is just waiting for the perfect opportunity to present itself. In his 24 years of coaching, he is truly grateful, alluding to God’s grace. “God has been very good . . . I’ve been very blessed every time a window or door closes, a new one always opens. Hinihintay ko lang iyong window sa basketball.”
One could say that coach Ariel’s career actually kicked off back in his college days in La Salle. While playing for La Salle’s Team B (he was a commerce and business management student), he was also with their school newspaper, The La Sallian, where he was a contributor.
Little did he know that the experiences he would gain there would actually help him down the line 30 years later, in the middle of a global crisis.
At the beginning of the pandemic, with all sporting events shut down, coach Ariel started his YouTube channel that held webinars for coaches all around the world entitled “Hoop Coaches International.”
In his web show with co-hosts Rick Olivares and Tedi Villasor, the guests were a who's who in local basketball as well as from abroad. To name a few, the winningest coach in Philippine history in Tim Cone; former head coach of the Australian Boomers, Andrej Lemanis; and even current Detroit Pistons assistant coach, Bill Bayno.
Coach Ariel’s project eventually gained international exposure because of numerous coaches around the world that constantly tuned in.
In turn, these connections resulted in several offers to coach overseas. One such offer included a stint in Europe, as well as the American G-League that unfortunately did not pan out. Many are unaware that coach Ariel had 3 opportunities of almost making it to the G League.
His most recent attempt went as far as him being the final cut when it came down to the panel’s deliberations. He also did not rule out the possibility of joining the Basketball Africa League (BAL), which is currently being run by the NBA, stating “it’s on my list.”
PRELUDE TO ‘MAGNUS OPUS’
When asked about which among his coaching stints he fondly looks back on, he cites his three years with Jose Rizal University: “I am most proud of my JRU team kahit we didn’t win it, we were one game away.”
That 2008 JRU team, led by Marvin Hayes and John Wilson, wasn’t the most talented when compared to the competition. In fact, it also didn’t have the biggest budget, but that team was never an easy out.
Coach Ariel brought out the best in each and every one of them by pushing the right buttons, eventually giving the Heavy Bombers a “palaban” identity. JRU was no longer deemed “jologs” since then, as they were to be taken seriously in the eyes of their opponents after their magnificent finals run. As coach Ariel said himself, “If I had a time machine, I wish I could go back and win that championship.”
From being a former writer and player during his college days, to being one of the first podcast hosts in the basketball community during the lockdown, coach Ariel’s love for basketball has never wavered as he will forever be a student of the game wherever he goes.
As his family currently resides in the United States, he will eventually have to settle there one day. But before he does, coach Ariel Vanguardia will be heading to Las Vegas this August to coach an exposure camp before heading to the NBA Summer League, still on his path to redemption.
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